The upper Glenelg River is almost unrecognisable compared to what it was at the end of the millennium drought.
That’s according to Glenelg Hopkins CMA Water Resource Planner Tori Perrin, who said scientific studies show the river bouncing back from the brink of ecological collapse.
Ms Perrin said the river’s health has improved dramatically over the past seven years, thanks in part to water released for the environment.
“Before environmental flows started there simply wasn’t enough water to support life in the river. As a result, the upper Glenelg had dried up into a series of saline pools struggling to support life over much of the summer,“ she said.
“Looking at seven years of data from the Victorian Environmental Flows Monitoring and Assessment Program (VEFMAP), the trend for many indicators of river health are positive.”
She said increasing numbers of native fish recorded in the river over this period were one indication that river health was rising.
“Since environmental flows started in 2009, the number of native fish have increased dramatically in the Glenelg River.
“We have fish like estuary perch and tupong moving back to their old range—more than 270 km upstream from where they were just seven years ago. Blackfish numbers have more than doubled and numbers of critically endangered variegated pygmy perches have increased ten-fold.”
Glenelg Hopkins CMA have just released their priorities for environmental water releases in the Glenelg for 2017-18, the Glenelg River Seasonal Watering Proposal 2017-18.
“The Seasonal Watering Proposal is an overview of what water releases we plan to deliver under different climatic scenarios,” she said.
“It’s based on how the river is faring at the moment and what plants and animals in the river require to survive and flourish.”
She said helping the river bounce back from the extremes of drought and flood will be the focus of the seasonal watering proposal.
“In 2016, we went from hardly having any water to release into the river over summer 2016, to having to hold back passing flows during winter and spring 2016 as it was simply too wet to release any more water.
“The flows outlined in the 2017-18 watering proposal aim to further boost native fish numbers, increase the diversity of plants along the river, and maintain habitat pools in the river for animals like the Australian platypus and the rare Glenelg Spiny Crayfish.
“Anybody that uses the river benefits from environmental flows. Whether you’re a farmer accessing the river for stock, an angler looking for a place to cast, or someone taking a dip, a healthier river is a something all river users appreciate.”
She said releasing water for the environment into the Glenelg River was crucial for its ongoing health.
“The Glenelg River has been modified with the construction of Rocklands Reservoir. In some years, almost half the water that would have once flowed down the Glenelg River is removed, which really affects the health of the river. Environmental water releases give a proportion of this water back to the river, bringing it back to life.”